on Matthew 1 :22
By the prophet - Isaiah is added here by several MSS., versions, and fathers. The prophecy is taken from Isaiah 7:14.
on Matthew 1 :22
Now all this was done - The prophecy here quoted is recorded in Isaiah 7:14. See the notes at that passage. The prophecy was delivered about 740 years before Christ, in the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah. The land of Judea was threatened with an invasion by the united armies of Syria and Israel, under the command of Rezin and Pekah. Ahaz was alarmed, and seems to have contemplated calling in aid from Assyria to defend him. Isaiah was directed, in his consternation, to go to Ahaz, and tell him to ask a sign from God Isaiah 7:10-11; that is, to look to God rather than to Assyria for aid. This he refused to do. He had not confidence in God, but feared that the land would be overrun by the armies of Syria Matthew 1:12, and relied only on the aid which he hoped to receive from Assyria. Isaiah answered that, in these circumstances, the Lord would himself give a sign, or a pledge, that the land should be delivered. The sign was, that a virgin should have a son, and that before that son would arrive to years of discretion, the land would be forsaken by these hostile kings. The prophecy was therefore designed originally to signify to Ahaz that the land would certainly be delivered from its calamities and dangers, and that the deliverance would not be long delayed. The land of Syria and Israel, united now in confederation, would be deprived of both their kings, and thus the land of Judah would be freed from the threatening danger. This appears to be the literal fulfillment of the passage in Isaiah.
Might be fulfilled - It is more difficult to know in what sense this could be said to be fulfilled in the birth of Christ. To understand this, it may be remarked that the word "fulfilled" is used in the Scriptures and in other writings in many senses, of which the following are some:
1. When a thing is clearly predicted, and comes to pass, as the destruction of Babylon, foretold in Isaiah 13:19-22; and of Jerusalem, in Matthew 24.
2. When one thing is typified or shadowed forth by another, and when the event occurs, the type is said to be fulfilled. This was the case in regard to the types and sacrifices in the Old Testament, which were fulfilled by the coming of Christ. See Hebrews 9.
3. When prophecies of future events are expressed in language more elevated and full than the particular thing, at first denoted, demands. Or, in other words, when the language, though it may express one event, is also so full and rich as appropriately to express other events in similar circumstances and of similar import, they may be said to be fulfilled. Thus, for example, the last chapters of Isaiah, from Isaiah 40 onward, foretell the return of the Jews into Babylon, and every circumstance mentioned occurred in their return. But the language is more expanded and sublime than was necessary to express their return. It will also express appropriately a much more important and magnificent deliverance that of the redeemed under the Messiah; and the return of the people of God to him, and the universal spread of the gospel: and therefore it may be said to be fulfilled in the coming of Jesus and the spread of the gospel. So, if there were any other magnificent and glorious events, still, in similar circumstances, and of like character, it might be said also that these prophecies were fulfilled in all of them. The language is so full and rich, and the promises are so grand, that they may appropriately express all these deliverances. This may be the sense in which the prophecy now under consideration may be said to have been fulfilled.
4. Language is said to be fulfilled when, though it was used to express one event, it may be used also to express another. Thus, a fable may be said to be fulfilled when an event occurs similar to the one concerning which it was first spoken. A parable has its fulfillment in all the cases to which it is applicable; and the same remark applies to a proverb, or to a declaration respecting human nature. The statement that "there is none that doeth good" Psalm 14:3 was at first spoken of a particular race of wicked men." Yet it is applicable to others, and in this sense may be said to have been fulfilled. See Romans 3:10. In this use of the word fulfilled, it means, not that the passage was at first intended to apply to this particular thing, but that the words aptly or appropriately express the thing spoken of, and way be applied to it. We may say the same of this which was said of another thing, and thus the words express both, or are fulfilled. The writers of the New Testament seem occasionally to have used the word in this sense.
on Matthew 1 :22